Seasonal Affective Disorder [Interview][Transcript]

sandra_reich_georgia_dow_seasonal_affective_disorderGuests: Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Sandra Reich, M.Ed, is the founder and clinical director of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. For the past eight years, she and a team of 13 therapists have taken a holistic and eclectic approach to treat clients with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy base. She has successfully treated many cases of anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship issues, co-dependency and other compulsive behaviors.
Georgia Dow, MA, has over 20 years of experience in teaching and counseling. With degrees in Psychology and Education, a Master’s degree with Distinction in Art Therapy, she specializes in treating anxiety and stress management for both children and adults. Dow earned a Masters in Art Therapy with Distinction from Concordia University. She also holds a B.A. with distinction from Concordia University and a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from McGill University.

Segment overview: Sandra Reich, M.ED., and Georgia Dow, MA, clinical director and psychotherapist, respectively of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


Health Professional Radio – Seasonal Affective Disorder

Neal Howard:   Welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on the program today. Our guest in studio, we’ve got two of them today, Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow. Both of which a clinical director and psychotherapist of the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression, both are here to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also the co-producers of videos discussing SAD. Welcome to the program Sandra and Georgia.

Georgia Dow:   Thank you so much for having us.

Sandra Reich:   Thank you so much for having us.

N:   Thank you both, thank you both. Seasonal affective disorder, the calendar tells us that it’s fall, I guess this disorder, seasonal affective disorder I’m assuming that it has to do with the weather but I could be wrong because I’ve never heard of it before. Enlighten me.

G:   So what happens is, is that our bodies react to the reduction in sunlight and so what happens as we go to what we consider a mild feeling of hibernation which is known as the ‘winter blues’ and so you might feel a little bit more tired, your motivation may be down, you may want to sleep for a little bit longer and in fact it’s between 15-30% of the population, so quite a lot of us are affected by this and that affects our mood.

N:   50-30 or 30-50% of the population?

G:   15-30% of the population will feel a difference in mood depending on the way, the amount of light that we are getting.

N:   I’ve heard of things, say in Alaska and you’ve got all of that time of darkness and all of that time of daylight. I’ve heard of people being affected that way but these are the seasons they happen every single year. If you’re affected one year are you going to be affected every year for the rest of your life?

S:   Most likely. Actually the way it works is people who live far from the equator where the winter daylights are very short just like she mentioned Alaska, but anywhere where there’s less daylight hours could be susceptible for seasonal affective disorder and it is very, very common as a result of that lack of sunlight. The sun plays a huge role in our circadian rhythms and also in serotonin which is as you know a brain chemical that affects our mood enormously.

N:   If I’m affected, how do I know that this is some form of depression that’s caused by something else? What are some of the symptoms that cry-out SAD?

G:   Well, one of the reasons that you would know that it would be seasonal affective disorder would be that this would happen around the same time of the year and there’s could be a pattern that you would go and for some people it’s very mild. It might just be, you feel a little bit more tired in the morning, you might over-sleep, you might over-eat, you may be craving for those carbs that you want to have and it maybe a little bit more difficult to concentrate or focus on tasks that you’re dealing with. And that can lead to feeling of depression or… some people also go through stronger headaches. So it would be the same as feeling depressed but this would be something you would start to realize that you cannot function to that but there seems to happen in a…way in a…way.

N:   The fall is filled with those special holidays, well Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I’ve heard my entire life of people having ‘holiday blues.’ Has this been just a misdiagnosis or some type of myth all of these years and now we understand that it’s caused by the seasons themselves and not necessarily the festivities or lack of thereof?

S:   That’s a great question actually and I think that it brings up the fact that it makes it very tricky because you brought up, is it depression? Is it SAD? Is it the fact that there so much pressure over the holidays and like Georgia said, one of the clues that keep happening around September or October, before Thanksgiving and Christmas that’s most likely you’re looking at SAD. If in fact right when the family’s about to come for dinner, suddenly intensifies then that’s an added stressor, I mean there’s no question seeing your family’s can makes us anxious, can makes us depressed. So we have to become very curious about the symptoms that we go through and there is a lot of overlaps, there’s no question depression and SAD have very similar symptoms. So again, pay very close attention to the trigger, to start to get to some of the answers. The good news is the treatment for many of these things are the same.

N:   You both produced a series of DVDs on anxiety and depression and I think they address this specific disorder. Could you talk about this series of videos that you produced?

S:   Okay. So we decided to come up with a series of videos to treat anxiety and depression and the various components that have to do with it. Thousands of people are on offices and there’s no question that this problem get better with treatment and get risks without it. So we thought of the people who can’t get to the offices and sometimes people are also there’s some stigma to coming in and we created a series so people could learn the strategies to combat these problems in the comfort of their home.

N:   And where can we go online to get more information or to get a copy of these videos?

S:   You can go to And Neil what we did is for your listeners, we have a special rate now just for your people, if they punch in at the end of for…bundle they will get 25% off.

N:    Okay great. Absolutely, a deal is always welcome.

S:   Especially this time of year.

N:   Oh yeah, absolutely. You were talking about treatment. When it comes to SAD, do you see, I guess the tried and true methods for depression or are there specific modalities that you use when you know that you’re dealing specifically with SAD?

S:   Well it’s really, it’s really both, when you think about it because again, there’s the basics which all go through but the one thing that’s very different with SAD is that the sun is relevant. So getting outside is gonna be relevant and they also sell light boxes, very easy to find them, very easily, even Cosco has them and they give up light that imitates the sun and reduce the symptoms almost immediately. You can put one on your desk and all your work…shine into your eyes and it helps enormously, if it is SAD that’s gonna have a profound effect. I live in Montreal, I have one of these boxes, I don’t have SAD, but I do find that I’m a little bit more lethargic in the winter, it does help me. Then you’ve got to get the basic stuff: food, sleep, exercise that can’t be missed, they’re very important factors.

N:   Do you find that one thing or another as far as nutrition goes can go a long way in reducing some of the stress thereby reducing some of the SAD symptoms?

S:   Enormously. I think we underestimate how important these things are. You take the word “breakfast” for example. It’s made up of few components, break in the fast, you’ve done 8 – 9 hours without food. If we don’t put food in our body our brains become irritable, it’s a recipe for anxiety, it’s a recipe for depression, it’s a recipe for all sorts of problems. Nutrition, our body, food, our brains needs it to stay nice and balanced, and feeling good and the same is true of sleep and even more so of exercise. If you’re suffering for any kind of anxiety or depression exercise is your best friend to be honest even if you’re not it is the best stress management tool I know of.

N:   It’s been a pleasure speaking with both of you today.

S:   Likewise, thank you so much for having us.

N:   Thank you.

G:   Thank you.

N:   The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression, Sandra Reich is the founder and clinical director of the center while Georgia Dow is the top psychotherapist with Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. You can get more information and get these videos at Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.


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